Two By Fifty Two Exit Interview with Danielle MacInnes & Pete Nowicki

There are countless photographers doing 365 projects and 52 week photo projects. There are even countless groups for photographers to join as support in completing their projects. When Danielle McInnes introduced me to this project with Pete Nowicki, I thought this was such a unique take. I mean, when you do a project by yourself, there’s no one but yourself holding you accountable. When you do a project with a group, there is a sense of accountability, but you could bow out and there is still a group intact. When you enter a year long project as a partnership, that is some serious commitment. I interviewed Danielle & Pete about this earlier in the year: How to Under-Develop Your {Bad} Photography Habits. They had the excellent idea of providing an exit interview as their Two By Fifty Two project comes to an end. Read til the end – they are super fun (their conversations make me want to know them in real life!) Their experience is truly inspiring.

 

Q: That was quite a project! Now that you’re done, what’s next?

Danielle: Well, I’m smack in the middle of my busy season, but I’ve already started a new photography project with a group of photographers I met through Fearless and Framed.  It’s a monthly blog circle called 5-on-5.  You can read all about it by clicking here.

But also……

There’s going to be a 2×52 book!  That’s right, we’re going to put out a beautiful coffee table book that should be ready in December.  

Pete: I’m excited for the book!  My next life challenge is training for a 445 mile kayak race in the Yukon during the summer solstice.I hope to get some really nice wilderness shots in between fighting exhaustion and hypothermia. Once that is done, I hope to do another photography project like 2×52.

D: Well now I feel rather boring….I’m actually training for a 500 mile kayak race.  I forgot about that!

P: Always trying to one up me, Danielle!

 

Q: Which word was most difficult for you to shoot?

D: Honestly, it was Week 1: Fear.  It was the one word I shot so many different ways, and I had a hard time coming up with a concept that I felt really represented the word.  In the end, I think I did a pretty good job, and it definitely shed some light on how difficult this project would truly end up being.

documentary photography project

P: I usually start with one idea just to get going, but don’t let myself get attached to it. In most cases my best photos are not the ones I originally intended to shoot.  I go out into the field, so to speak, and start to shoot and observe.  Sometimes, like with Dreamy, I got very, very lucky.  Where I tend to get frustrated is when I still have only mediocre shots after an hour of shooting.

D: So basically every other week?  

P: Oh, snap!

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Q: Which word resulted in the most surprising result?

P: Looking up. I just really liked the way it turned out because there are some really cool details in the particular shot I chose that I didn’t notice while I was shooting. Disco balls are very interesting to look at!

D:  I think for me it was Week 4: “Sunrise.” I knew there was no other way to shoot that word without actually getting up and watching the sun rise, and I’m not a big fan of waking up before the sun.  But I think the picture came out pretty cool.  The interesting thing about this shot is that your eye is naturally drawn to the leading lines of the sidewalk right up to the burst of light at the end, which most people assume is the sun, but it’s actually just the light from the street lamp! (the sun is really in the upper left hand corner)

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If you could do this project again (and PLEASE do it again!!) what changes would you make?

D: Ha! We’ve actually discussed this.  I think the biggest change would be the word list.  

I think it would be a good idea to know the words ahead of time and to have them match up seasonally which would (maybe) make it slightly easier, but also allow some more room for creativity. I want to continue this in some capacity down the road, but I think Pete has a much harder time with (the) commitment.

P: In my experience, concrete, literal words like Stone and Blueberry are the easiest to shoot and usually result in decent or better shots (with the exception of Fruit for me). Abstract words that require interpretation can be very difficult–they can yield some really interesting and cool results if you can find a “vision,” or completely flop if you can’t. So next time I would go with a ratio of 3 literal words to 1 abstract word.

D: So we’re in agreement about this, IF we do it again, the word list needs to be on point!

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Did you ever anticipate what the other was going to choose for a subject?

D: Hmmm.  I don’t think so.  I mostly just hoped Pete would remember to shoot the word each week.  I had a hard time (most weeks) figuring out what I was going to shoot so I couldn’t be concerned about what HE was going to shoot.  I just needed to win.  

P: No, I’m pretty self-absorbed most of the time. Who is Danielle?

D: HA!  I just spit my coffee out!  For real! You’re the worst!

Which photograph that you didn’t take was your favorite?

D: When this question came up in our first interview, my favorite Pete picture was “Through the Window.”  I still LOVE that image, but my new favorite of his is “Dreamy”  because … isn’t it?  Actually, there’s another version of that photo that he didn’t choose and I think it’s even better than the one he actually submitted. Hmmm, that makes me think it be  fun to show some of our ‘rejects’ from each week!  

P: You can show them my reject, Danielle.

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D: Seriously– how gorgeous is that photo?  I’m slightly obsessed.   

P: As for my favorite of yours, “Food” is downright mouth-watering. It makes me salivate.

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Did this project cause you to grow (either with your photography or otherwise)?

P: Yes! Photography, like pretty much everything else, requires practice, practice, practice. Especially for me since I don’t shoot professionally. You have to put your “10,000 hours” in one way or another.

D: Definitely.  One of the most difficult parts about being in the photography business is to keep shooting even when it’s not for a client.  During the last year, I was shooting all the time because the project kept me motivated to keep picking up my camera even when I wasn’t working.  I had a deadline and another person who was counting on me so I treated it like a job.  I am so used to shooting people, and this project allowed me to branch out and shoot differently for a year.  I had to get really creative with some of my pictures, and it helped me realize that I really like shooting outside the ‘portrait’ box!

P: Riddle me this. Is shooting an actual box shooting outside of the box?

D: As long as I shoot when I’m standing outside of it.  Wait.  What?  Seriously, Pete?

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If you could go back and swap out just one picture, which one would it be and why?

D:  Pete’s Fruit.  Oh do you mean one of mine?  None.  Pete’s Fruit.  Final answer. Just kidding. I really dislike my picture for “Fast” – I think it’s so generic and really not very creative.  I was up against the deadline and I just walked to the end of my street and started shooting cars.  Lame.  Pete totally nailed it that week too, which made me even more mad.

P: “Fruit” for sure. Danielle wouldn’t let me go back and change it and now I hate myself forever.

D: Because that would have been cheating! And I think it taught you a lesson. I don’t think we need to post that picture in this interview again either.  

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Did you learn anything about yourself as a photographer during this project?

P: I learned that mastering the technical aspects of photography is critical to allowing your creativity to flourish. You can’t think too much about stuff like aperture when you have 1.5 seconds to take the shot of a lifetime. It must be automatic.

D: Oh shoot.  What Pete said.  Also, I learned (or noticed rather) that I rely so much on observation when I’m shooting people.  I like to take the in bigger scene and then look for the smaller details that might help tell part of a throughline.  I’m so drawn to the details.  I wasn’t always able to do that with this project, so I had to learn to slow down and pay attention a little differently.

documenting landscapes in low lightbokeh at night

Having gone through this experience, intimately learning about your shooting style while growing at the same time, are you able to see your personality clearer in your images? As in, do you feel you have a message to say and can see it within your photos?

P: It’s much easier to analyze the concrete, observable aspects of my photography. I am clearly drawn to leading lines and negative space. If there was a theme I had to pick for my favorite shots from this project, it would be mystery. But don’t ask me to explain that. I just strive to shoot photos that make the observer pause and study.

D: I actually agree with you, Pete!  Many of your photos do have an element of mystery to them.  Don’t ask me to explain that either!  It’s interesting because I think as the project evolved, people were able to identify who shot what. I tend to shoot more literal.  I want people to look at my photos and pay attention to the details.  The untrained mind is fairly mediocre at paying attention.   So if I can make a photograph that causes people to pause and take a deeper look,  I’ll be happy.

WEEK11WEEK22BLUEBLOGI’m a firm believer in accountability and I’m sure being accountable to each other has been one thing that’s kept you going for this project. Aside from the accountability factor, did you do anything to keep you going and the creative juices flowing? Took a walk to get inspired? Danced around to music to get your energy rocking?

P: Creativity can’t be forced. I am not a cat person, but creativity is very similar to a cat. If you try to approach it directly it will run. You have to let it come to you. And hope you’re not allergic.

D:  I hate cats. (did you know they try to steal your breath while you sleep?).  Honestly, I just needed to be better than Pete every week– not in a super jerky competitive kind of way, just in a way that kept me sincerely motivated. But like I said in our first interview, I think writing the word of the week down on my desk kept me thinking about it a little more frequently.    In general, I’m constantly framing images up in my mind when I’m out and about, and I found that I was spending some solid time trying to picture how I might shoot the word each week.   

Is there a word from the master list that you wish had been picked but wasn’t?  

D: There are 2 really.  Spoon and Crepuscular Rays.  Whenever I would explain this project to anyone I would always use the word “Spoon” as an example of how two people could shoot the same word very differently. For example, you could shoot a solitary soup spoon against a stark background, or you could something completely different, such as two people spooning in bed(hopefully people you know, otherwise that might get creepy).

Crepuscular rays are so beautiful and you need to really have a handle on your settings in order to nail it.  Towards the end of the project I really wished we had more words that would challenge our photography skills.   

P: Crepuscular Rays for sure. We ended up not adding it to the list because it was too weather dependent. But man, if we’d been able to shoot that….

D: It actually was on the list, Pete.

P: Oh?

Or any word that you really hoped would never be picked?

D: Codpiece.  Enough said.  

P: But imagine if you got a really great Codpiece shot! It would really enhance your portfolio! (disclaimer: if you don’t know what a codpiece is, google it!)

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What are your favorite cameras?  The Rebel?  Or or or ???????

D:   I’m a Canon girl! I carry two cameras in my arsenal.  The 5D Mark III is my go-to and the 5D Mark II is considered my back-up, though I shoot with both during a session so I don’t have to change lenses.  It’s all about the lenses really! My 35mm f/1.4 rarely leaves my camera and almost every photo for 2×52 was shot with the 5DMIII and that prime lens.  

P: I love my Canon 50D and my workhorse lens is the 28mm f/1.8. 75% of the time that is the lens on my camera. On a 50D, which is not a full frame SLR, it is equivalent to a “prime” lens (about what a human eye sees).

 

Wondered if some fav pics may have been spontaneous, maybe taken with iPhone and turned out to be a favorite of yours?

P: As the saying goes, the best camera is the one that you have on you. One of my favorite photos from this project is the Whisky Glass (“Art”) which I snapped at a really wonderful and unexpected moment when a friend of mine was playing guitar around a campfire. All I had on me was my iPhone. The background in the original shot was a little overexposed, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed in Photoshop or Lightroom.

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D: Yes!  Your “Art” photo really is brilliant!  Speaking of, my Week 52 photo “Brilliant” was actually shot right after I finished up a client session.  I didn’t anticipate that I would use it for the project, but as I was culling through and I saw it, I knew I had a winner!  That was the most spontaneous for me.

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Would you ever think about turning this into a contest and have people submit photos on the words you have chosen, or new words?

D: Definitely.  A  lot of people have asked this question!  We’re trying to think of a way to drum up some interest in that idea and keep the 2×52 spirit going while we take a break from the project.  

P: Yes, I am all for a more interactive experience…. We already had people submit words in June, but I love the idea of people submitting photographs as well.

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If you could only pick ONE photo from the entire project to blow up and hang on your wall, which one would it be (it doesn’t have to be your own)?

D: Pete’s Week 15, “Fruit” picture.  Just kidding.  I’ve always loved “Through the Window” but now my new favorite is Pete’s rejected picture for Week 44, “Dreamy”. I’m definitely hanging that one up on my wall.  I think it’s perfection.

P: I already have my photo for “Art” framed in my office.  But I really like Danielle’s “Light” and “Dark”… both would make an excellent addition to the conference room here at work!

 

Is there any way we can buy some of the photos from 2×52?

D: Yes!  We’ll be sending our subscribers an informational email about how to purchase the book AND prints of your own!  If you’re not already a subscriber, head on over to the site and get that taken care of!

P: The book is going to be sweet.

 

Any final words you’d like to say?

D: Yes, always.  I have to extend a huge thanks to everyone who followed along and cheered us on from the sidelines.  It was really cool to learn that so many people were so into this project, and inspired by it as well.  In fact, there’s been a spin off of our 2×52 by a couple who read about us in our first interview.  You should check their project out, it’s called: {52 Words} www.rustedvanphotography.com

Of course, I really need to thank Pete because obviously without him, this wouldn’t have been possible.  I never envisioned such a kick ass website either.  I just assumed I would simply blog about 2×52, so I am especially grateful for his web design expertise (which is what he does in real life, if you didn’t know).  While I know there were times he wished he never agreed to do this project, he never (really) complained even though he’s the busiest person in the world.  Thanks Pete!

P: And I just want to thank Danielle for reigniting my passion for photography. I’d put down my camera for far too long before 2×52. Thank you!  

D: We’re pretty thankful!

 

To check out the entire Two by Fifty Two project, and to sign up for updates on the upcoming book and ways to purchase prints, head over to www.2×52.com

You can find Danielle here:

Website // Facebook

You can find Pete here:

Website // Facebook

 

Homework: Have you ever done a photography project or challenge? Tell us about it in the comments (feel free to link to it too!). What helped you stay accountable? If you’ve never taken on a project, what’s held you back?

Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

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  • Oh I am so kicking myself I didn’t know about this earlier, what a great project. The photos from this post alone are awesome, I am now going to spend the day going through all of them on their website!

    I did a 52 week portrait project this week, taking photos of each of my daughters. It was harder than expected, and some weeks there was no thought that went in to it. But it really challenged me to find different ways to shoot the girls, especially at home. It’s amazing to look back on it now though, and see not only how the girls have changed through the day, but how much better my photography has gotten, through practice and from studying for my Diploma of Photo Imaging at Tafe (college). I’ve posted the photos on my blog here if you’re so inclined to have a look…
    http://www.kyliepurtell.com/search/label/52%20Week%20Project